Charles's Reviews > The Apex Book of World SF 4

The Apex Book of World SF 4 by Mahvesh Murad
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's review
Dec 21, 2015

really liked it
bookshelves: science-fiction, short-story, stat_1, reviewed

Stuff I Read - The Apex Book of World SF 4 Review

When looking at something like "World SF," it's rather interesting to see exactly what is meant. Stories written from writers living outside the US and UK? Stories written from writers born outside the US and UK? It's a complex question of what makes a story "World SF," and a question that gets a complex answer in this reprint anthology. The good news is that the stories are amazing, and those that I had read at the time they first make out were among my favorites at the time. The bad news? Um...there really isn't any bad news. This is an excellent collection of stories that at turns delight and depress. The craft is unquestionable and the themes do take on a great global context.

In some ways, this collection seems to highlight a global conversation in many ways, but perhaps focusing on a few different larger themes. Immigration is something that comes up again and again in the stories, and perhaps most interestingly in Zen Cho's "The Four Generations of Chang E," which takes a rather obvious pun and does something achingly subtle with it, following a family that immigrates to the moon and examining what it means to immigrate, and how place changes, and how families change, and how change happens. It's a lovely piece and strange and striking and an excellent examination of movement and culture and family.

And perhaps family is another of those big themes, and the collections shows how family, how culture, can be both freeing and restrictive. How people can chafe under the pressures to perform and conform and how people, regardless of the nationality, face the prospect of the monolithic "Culture" of their place. Even in completely speculative lands, as in Haralambi Markov's "The Language of Knives," one of my favorite stories of 2015, which shows funeral rites and challenges family roles, gender roles, and generational change. Plus there's cake in one of the most disturbing and elegant cooking scenes I've had the pleasure of reading. In Thomas Olde Heuvelt's "The Boy Who Cast No Shadow," similarly, two boys with unique abnormalities navigate a world that seems designed to destroy them. They are outcasts together that must deal with their families trying to keep them in certain roles in order to "keep them safe." But the real story is about how they find in each other a freedom that transcends their place and allows them an escape from the seemingly-predestined tragedy of their births. And of course there is the amazing "Tiger Baby" by JY Yang, that shows how the monotony of office life can be like a prison and how expectations can become a cage. And for one person who dreams of being a tiger, the escape isn't exactly what was envisioned.

The stories are largely dense and rather difficult, most either science fiction or contemporary fantasy/magic realism, though there are of course exceptions. But part of the "World SF" concept demands that most of the stories be set on Earth, which is nicely handled. Really one of the few issues I had with the collection is probably stemming from a more personal pacing preference, as the collection as a whole seemed a bit weighted in sections with heavier stories. Word-length was varied nicely, but I thought that at times like I was swimming some strong currents and battling to stay afloat enough to give each story the attention it deserved. Of course, this might have been because I read the collection in mostly very large chunks, and I might have better enjoyed it by nibbling a story or two at a time, especially because some of the thematic jumps from story to story seemed drastic at times to me. To me. I still very much enjoyed the stories, and I think that the organization of the collection does a nice job of showing a huge range of stories and perspectives.

In the end, I do think that the anthology offers up an interesting answer to the question of what is "World SF"? It's not homogeneous, but it does show that there are some experiences that unite people regardless of place or culture. Not exactly universals, because the concepts themselves shift from place to place, different translations of a more central feeling and experience. But it does offer up perspectives from an impressive range of writers, and provides speculative visions that are deep and intricate and powerful. A very nice collection and to me an 8.5/10.


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Reading Progress

December 21, 2015 – Started Reading
December 21, 2015 – Shelved
December 21, 2015 – Shelved as: science-fiction
December 21, 2015 – Shelved as: short-story
December 21, 2015 –
page 320
100.0% "A very good collection that covers a lot of ground and provides a good range of "world" stories. At least, stories are from around the world and are quite good. Indeed."
December 21, 2015 – Shelved as: stat_1
December 21, 2015 – Finished Reading
February 22, 2016 – Shelved as: reviewed

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